The Common Good

Emancipation Day

Today is a holiday in the District of Columbia, although primarily observed only by the D.C. government, and likely unknown to the rest of the country. But it’s a commemoration worth noting.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, freeing more than 3,000 slaves within its borders. It predated the more famous Emancipation Proclamation, which came nearly 10 months later on January 1, 1863.

Yet, while legal slavery is long gone, economic disparities are vast and growing. The income gap is one of the widest in the country, with a white per capita income more than triple that of African-Americans. The poverty rate is 20 percent, 30 percent for children,

Politically, all Washingtonians, regardless of race, remain disenfranchised – we have no elected voting representative in Congress, while Congress retains veto power over our budget. That leads to it using us to enact their pet ideas – repealing a variety of legislation duly passed by our City Council and Mayor.

For D.C. residents, today is a day to remember and celebrate the end of slavery, while renewing the struggle for economic justice and full representation as citizens of the United States.